An imperial cane from the Gilles Grimm collection
After his archaeological pieces, in 2018 Gilles Grimm sold his collection of antique weapons and historical mementos, led by a cane Napoleon I used on St Helena.
Piece made in a Chinese workshop on St Helena for Napoleon: cane in narwhal tusk, flat carved eight-sided pommel inlaid with darkened wood lozenges, imitation narwhal beak fluted stick, l. 92 cm.
For forty years, Gilles Grimm – a self-taught sexagenarian who made a fortune in property and lives between Paris and Thailand – has been tirelessly combing galleries, antique stores and salerooms all over the world for pieces that truly speak to him. His favourite realms are archaeology (particularly bronze helmets), 19th-century porcelains, antique weapons and Napoleonic mementos: almost a classic of its kind, as objects connected with the Emperor are always highly sought-after. So will this apply to this cane made by an anonymous Chinese craftsman on St Helena? The small Chinese community recruited from the trading posts of the East India Company, who moved there in 1810 (three years after the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire) on the orders of the island's governor, Colonel Patton, consisted of farmers, woodworkers, masons and stone cutters. They made several items for Napoleon, like small boxes for tea, and other larger pieces. (The Musée Bertrand in Chateauroux (Indre) contains the large aviary from the garden of Longwood House.) This system cane, made of a narwhal or sea unicorn tusk, functioned by means of a retractable stick attached to the pommel. This wand could be used as a pointer for maps. A symbol inseparable from the Emperor and his brilliant military career…